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No bike helmet idea a can of worms for Government

By Greg Cornwell 23 February 2016 26

Cycling without a helmet

The Road Safety Action Plan 2016-2020 among other of its 39 recommendations asks that risks and any potential benefits be investigated of allowing people to ride bicycles without a helmet in low speed environments.

Apart from allowing the breeze to ruffle your helmetless hair – but only in selected areas – the other benefit is the suggestion more people might take up riding bicycles if the helmet rule was relaxed.

Several issues arise from the recommendation and in no particular order: a rider to enjoy the freedom has to reach a free zone so a helmet still is a travel necessity. Will bareheaded cyclists be restricted to the zones by our already overburdened police force? Will the increase in people cycling and apparently hitherto deterred in affluent Canberra by the cost of a helmet really outweigh the risks of fatalities and injuries? Is it wise to have rules for cycling in different areas? Are children to be exempt? And apart from the ANU, parks are identified as low speed environments so do we differentiate with signs between paths and bike paths?

A 2013 NSW study quoted in the Plan said helmets reduced head injuries by 74 percent while 23 percent of people indicated they would ride more (not take up cycling) if helmets were not mandatory.

The cycling lobby in Canberra is politically active, sometimes sanctimonious and doubtless keen to increase its influence. However it needs to be remembered hilly ACT is not The Netherlands and people need cars here so commonsense is called for in addressing transport and environment requirements.

If the Plan’s intentions are realised, including a 10 percent cycling increase resulting in significant less traffic congestion, as reported from further interstate studies, it follows bicycles will become more numerous. Should they like people, like motor vehicles, then be subject to regulations?

To date controls on cyclists have been resisted because of health and environmental benefits. Nevertheless complaints do occur principally from accidents with walkers and the increasing cost to taxpayers of bike paths.

Registration of bicycles is often called for but with the number already in the community and the cost of administrating the scheme is not worthwhile. The better idea useful for an accident is cyclists be required to carry an ID, no great burden in these days of security.

Of course the argument no protection to encourage greater participation raises the question what’s next: motorcycles, ice hockey…?

The government has a lot of thinking to do.

Photo: iStock


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26 Responses to
No bike helmet idea a can of worms for Government
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farq 10:44 pm 24 Feb 16

gooterz said :

Much like light rail is the solution to the problem we haven’t had yet. The government will have to make some more laws making that part of town more dense. (I think they’re rather dense enough).

Lol no, Light rail is simple about making money for our governments developer mates while ratepayers foot the bill. The only dense people are those who still vote Labor.

Tenpoints 8:37 pm 24 Feb 16

gooterz said :

It would be crazy when we bring in registration for bicycles. However its the only way the bicycle speed cameras will work.

Maybe they can also have a helmet cam?

By gum I think this government has it backwards.
The civic cycle loop was built because there are so many cyclists out there. So why only a few months later do we have to bring in a law to encourage more people to cycle? Did we over estimate the number of cyclists?

It seems our beloved leaders love us so much that they spend all day looking for solutions to us. However we’re rather slow at bringing the problems to go with them.

Much like light rail is the solution to the problem we haven’t had yet. The government will have to make some more laws making that part of town more dense. (I think they’re rather dense enough).

I think the problem is too many drivers rather than not enough cyclists. And you pay how much for parking?

gooterz 6:35 pm 24 Feb 16

It would be crazy when we bring in registration for bicycles. However its the only way the bicycle speed cameras will work.

Maybe they can also have a helmet cam?

By gum I think this government has it backwards.
The civic cycle loop was built because there are so many cyclists out there. So why only a few months later do we have to bring in a law to encourage more people to cycle? Did we over estimate the number of cyclists?

It seems our beloved leaders love us so much that they spend all day looking for solutions to us. However we’re rather slow at bringing the problems to go with them.

Much like light rail is the solution to the problem we haven’t had yet. The government will have to make some more laws making that part of town more dense. (I think they’re rather dense enough).

OpenYourMind 6:05 pm 24 Feb 16

Here’s what its like in the Netherlands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-AbPav5E5M

I suggest doing a little googling on dutch helmet laws statistics injuries

Those for helmet laws may be a little surprised.

Nilrem 2:07 pm 24 Feb 16

John Hargreaves said :

It is about time that the Government started questioning the science behind the compulsion to wear bike helmets.

It is true that the states brought in the laws in response to an inadequately argued demand from the feds to do so. Not to do so was to risk road funding.

It is true also, that helmets prevent soft tissue injuries such as gravel rash, broken noses and perhaps even the odd hair line fracture.

There is no clinical evidence that helmets have prevented major head trauma.

Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that helmets can contribute to Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI) which is the rotation of the head due to the increased mass of that head when it strikes the road.

Unlike motor bike helmets which are smooth and this smoothness mitigates the rotational opportunity f the head making contact a glancing one, bike helmets have gripping surfaces which contributes to DAI.

The result of DAI is the potential for quadriplegia and possible death. Indeed, a cyclist in Wanniassa died from DAI after falling off his bike. This was a coroner’s finding.

The standards applicable to bike helmets have been challenged and ignored. It is about time that this was remedied.

a Senate Sub Committee chaired by Senator Leyonhjelm (apologies for the spelling) heard scientific evidence at its hearing in Melbourne recently, advocating for the removal of the compulsion to wear the helmets. The evidence in support of the helmets law was from the medical profession with no empirical evidence – only the emotive “it will save kids’ lives” argument.

I’m pleased to see that baby steps are being taken to bring this issue to reality but am annoyed that it will take until mid next year before the actual law has any chance of being changed.

While I take your point about DAI, I shall continue to wear a helmet. One day it may be the only thing between my skull/brain and a bull bar, or the road. I’ll take a chance with DAI.

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